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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

US, European stocks pause near record highs ahead of Central Bank actions, jobs data

Wall Street followed European counterparts into the red on Monday and U.S. Treasury yields ticked higher as investors looked ahead to key jobs data and congressional testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.

Bitcoin was also on the radar as the cryptocurrency inched closer to its first record high since November 2021.

Just as European stocks backed off from a record high, powered by tech shares, the major U.S. equity indexes were modestly softer in the wake of Friday’s record-setting rally.

Market participants appeared to be treading water ahead of Powell’s two-day congressional testimony expected later in the week, the European Central Bank’s policy decision and the Labor Department’s crucial February jobs report due early Friday.

“Investors are in wait-and-see mode,” said Oliver Pursche, senior vice president at Wealthspire Advisors in New York. “There’s some big economic data coming out later this week and the ECB is expected to make some announcements.”

“There’s nothing out there right now that’s going to cause anyone to move in one direction or another with any high conviction,” Pursche added.

Powell’s testimony and the jobs data will be scrutinized for any clarification regarding the timing and extent of the Fed’s expected cuts to its key policy rate this year.

On average, analysts believe the U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs in February, and the unemployment rate held firm at 3.7%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 90.84 points, or 0.23%, to 38,996.54, the S&P 500 lost 1.56 points, or 0.03%, to 5,135.52 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 24.17 points, or 0.15%, to 16,250.78.

European shares crept to another record high, but reversed gains as investors looked ahead to the European Central Bank’s monetary policy meeting later in the week.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.19% and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.03%.

Emerging market stocks rose 0.59%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.63% higher, while Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.50%.

Bitcoin rose to a more than two-year peak and was closing in on its first record high since November, 2021.

The cryptocurrency was last up 5.7% at $66,185, approaching an intraday record reached in November 2021.

“Bitcoin is a very high-volatility, speculative, momentum-related play and it always has been,” Pursche said. “The one thing it’s good for from an analyst’s perspective is it’s an indicator of risk sentiment and investors’ willingness to take on risk.”

The dollar was essentially unchanged against a basket of world currencies at the top of an eventful week, packed with central bank activity and key U.S. employment data.

The dollar index fell 0.06%, with the euro up 0.2% to $1.0859.

The Japanese yen weakened 0.21% versus the greenback at 150.44 per dollar, while Sterling was last trading at $1.2693, up 0.34% on the day.

U.S. Treasury yields edged higher ahead of a busy week of central bank activity and economic indicators.

Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 12/32 in price to yield 4.2268%, from 4.182% late on Friday.

The 30-year bond last fell 24/32 in price to yield 4.3722%, from 4.327% late on Friday.

Oil prices reversed earlier gains after a widely expected move on the part of OPEC+ to extend its output cuts.

U.S. crude fell 0.41% to $79.64 per barrel and Brent was last at $83.29, down 0.31% on the day.

Gold rose to a near two-month high as market participants solidified their bets that the Fed would begin cutting interest rates in June.

Spot gold added 0.9% to $2,101.79 an ounce.

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